Archive for May 19th, 2013

Cuba: una mirada a su modelo de bienestar III

May 19, 2013

El Adversario

Por: Dra. Patricia Arés Muzio

11457-fotografia-gLos diversos espacios de socialización

Los espacios de socialización son muy importantes en la vida, el entramado social es el recurso, el sostén para todo sujeto, pues está claro que ciertamente es en él que una persona puede desarrollarse en su potencial con plenitud. Las familias viven actualmente en aislamiento en muchas partes del mundo y mientras mayor es el nivel de vida, mayor es el modo de vida enclaustrado.

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Cuba: una mirada a su modelo de bienestar II

May 19, 2013

El Adversario

Por: Dra. Patricia Arés Muzio

17aem_jovenes_cubanosEn primer lugar el no sentimiento de exclusión, el no vivir “anomia social”

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Cuba: una mirada a su modelo de bienestar I

May 19, 2013

El Adversario

Dra. Patricia Arés Muzio

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En muchas oportunidades, he preguntado a mis estudiantes cuáles serían las principales razones para decir que en Cuba es bueno vivir. La mayoría de las veces sus respuestas están relacionadas con el acceso a la salud, la educación y la seguridad social y efectivamente, estos son los pilares de nuestro modelo socialista, pero para las personas jóvenes constituyen realidades tan asumidas desde la cotidianidad que se tornan demasiado habituales o quedan congeladas en un discurso que, a fuerza de repetición, se hace irrelevante.

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“Cuban Democracy” versus “American Democracy”

May 19, 2013

Arnold-August

By Arnold August and Julie Lévesque for Global Research

Arnold August is a political scientist an author, journalist and lecturer living in Montreal, Canada (Quebec). He is the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections (Editorial José Martí). He has also contributed a chapter entitled “Socialism and Elections” for the volume Cuban Socialism in a New Century: Adversity, Survival and Renewal (University Press of Florida).

JL: Tell us about your book Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion why did you write this book and how did you go about it?
AA: Well I think many people will agree that when it comes to international politics, pressure by the countries in the North, especially U.S. and regarding the South in general — Asia, Africa and Latin America – there are very few themes that are raised other than the theme of democracy. It has been this way especially since the 1980′s, since the fall of the former Soviet Bloc, the issue of democracy or rather the pretext of democracy is increasingly being used by the U.S. and Europe as a reason to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. At the same time, strange as it may seem there are very few books written on that issue of democracy as such. I guess not many people want to address this subject because it is a very loaded term, it’s not easy to deal with, but I always thought it was necessary. It is in fact my second book on the issue of democracy, the first one, written in 1999 dealt specifically with democracy and elections in Cuba.

JL: I guess a lot of people would be surprised to hear that there is democracy in Cuba. What kind of democracy is it?
AA: In Canada and the U.S.especially, the whole issue of democracy is supposed to be completely foreign to the Cuban experience and now of course the same attitude applies to other countries such as Venezuela. I deal with the issue of democracy but as you notice the subtitle of the book is Democracy in Motion. So I don’t deal only with democracy as such. I try to develop the concept of “Democracy in Motion” that is democratisation as a process which never ends and, at the centre of this whole concept, I try to develop the role of participatory democracy, that is, democracy in which the people play a key role on a daily basis to make their own political power effective.

JL: Do you think people in Cuba participate more in the decision making than in Canada or the U.S. for example?
AA: Well I think you’d have to compare Cuba to what the situation was before 1959, before the Revolution. We can’t even compare it, it is so obvious there was a U.S.controlled, a U.S.-led dictatorship in Cuba before 1959 – the Batista dictatorship – and the people were completely excluded from power. In fact, Fidel Castro was running for the opposition in the senate at the time, in the late 1950’s, and it was obvious he and his party were going to win those elections.
The U.S.-backed Batista regime cancelled the elections and organised a coup d’état. So it gives you an idea of the kind of participation there was before 1959. Since 1959 of course it has been developed. In 1959 it was the first time in the history of Cuba that the people obtained political power. I’m not saying it was perfect. It wasn’t perfect then, it isn’t perfect now. But the main feature of the 1959 Revolution is that for the first time, political power was in the hands of the people. Then term “sovereignty invested in the people” became a real meaningful concept in Cuba.
Now we can draw a parallel between the Cuban revolution and the rebellion in Egypt recently. I would call it a revolution because the Egyptian people revolted and actually succeeded in overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictator Mubarak.
What I find interesting there, and it opened my eyes further on the issue of the need for people to look at democracy as an ongoing process, a participatory democracy, is that the people at Tahir Square occupied the public space and it is from that area that millions of people on a daily basis made their decisions: what to do, what their priorities were, which was to overthrow Mubarak.
They would not accept anything less than that. In the meantime, a political power was developing at the base to replace the power of the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime. And in fact they overthrew the Mubarak regime. Now what did the Obama administration do right after that? After having supported the Mubarak regime, hypocritically of course, right to the last second? When he was finally overthrown the U.S. immediately tried to impose what I call in my publication the “U.S.-centric notion of politics”, that is, multi-party democracy.
I remember very clearly, and it is chronicled in my publication, that after the overthrow of Mubarak, while the street demonstrations were still going on in Tahir Square and in squares across Egypt, Hillary Clinton said on behalf of Obama that people have to move from protest to politics. So from the U.S. point of view, people in the street organizing themselves on an entirely new basis to somehow take political power, on an entirely different orientation, even though it was only in an embryonic way, is not politics. The only politics that count are electoral politics. Then the US organized elections in Egypt.

JL: Because this way they can control the outcome?
AA: Exactly, that is what they control through elections. The US could not control Tahrir Square, the people at a very low embryonic level aiming to take political power at the top.

JL: And was there a fear there that something like that would happen in the U.S. as well?
AA: Of course, because the first domino effect of Tahir Square was in the United States itself.
The Obama administration had to organize elections and the first thing they did was to eliminate the political party based on the Nasserite tradition which is generally progressive and in favour of socialism, definitely in favour of sovereignty from the U.S. That was illuminated by hook and by crook as they usually do and they were left with only two parties – the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian National Movement Party. Both are pro-American. Now here’s an important point as far as the electoral process is concerned versus the political process of democracy in motion: only 52% of the people actually voted in the presidential elections between the two opposing candidates. 52%! And there was a call to boycott it. Of course this is not very well known in public circles. They sort of avoid that issue.
Now here are the two things in contradiction. On the one hand you have the people in Tahir Square and other squares looking for new ways to attain political power outside of the multi-party political system controlled by the United States. That’s why only 52% voted. At the same time in order to overthrow Mubarak in that 18 day revolution 850 people were killed and 5500 people were seriously injured. Now I ask you: Is it not easier to deposit a ballot compared to fighting on the streets with the possibility of losing your life or being seriously injured to overthrow? So it’s not because of apathy or lack of interest. It’s basically a rejection of the multi-party system that was reflected in those elections and this is why it’s still going on.
I spent almost 24 hours a day during that 18 day period watching this thing and it allowed me to expand further on the issue of participatory democracy and how elections are used in order to legitimize the status quo. Now that is exactly what Obama did when the Muslim Brotherhood won the election. He phoned Morsi and according to the White House transcript he said “Now you are legitimate.” You have legitimacy to rule in Egypt. That’s how in these countries elections are used when controlled by the U.S.– to legitimize the dictatorship of the old guard.
We can even come closer to home. What happened in Quebec (Canada) last spring? There were millions of people in the streets, literally, students and older people, all over Quebec and what did the Liberal government say? “Well, we were elected.” Of course only 52% of the people voted and the vote split between the two/three parties. “We were elected.” They mean: “We are the legitimate representatives of the people and we can do what we want. We have the mandate to do everything. Anything.” And so the elections are used whether in Egypt, Quebec or other countries to legitimize the rule of the old guard. Now I’m not against elections. I’m not against elections with different political parties, but we have to look concretely how it takes place.

JL: So basically you’re saying that elections don’t guarantee democracy.
AA: It does not guarantee democracy and in many cases it is used as a pretext to completely wipe out any struggle by the people at the base to take political power in their own hands and develop their own type of system.
Overhead view of hundreds of people wearing red for the Teachers’ union, protesting against Walker’s bill.

JL: How would you describe the events surrounding the Occupy Movement in the U.S.?
AA: What is interesting to note is that after the events at Tahir Square, the U.S. were very happy to be able to replace the popular movement with the so-called elections, temporarily, because troubles were still going on and have not been resolved. Now ironically, or paradoxically and with justice, the boomerang effect or the first domino effect took place in Madison, in the U.S. itself, in a very short period after Mubarak was overthrown and people had signs saying: “The governor of Wisconsin is our Mubarak.
We have to fight against the dictatorship”. They were inspired by the occupation of the public spaces in Egypt, in Tahir Square, and they did the same thing in the Capitol of Wisconsin. The Capitol building was occupied for several weeks, people slept there, they made their own decisions, they had manifestos they were building a new political power to challenge that of the establishment political parties. Unfortunately this movement was almost immediately converted into being part of the two-party machinations in the United States so the unions got caught up into a recall struggle against the governor. That is very good, no one can be against that. But the problem is the two-party system and the idea that one party is no good and we have to get rid of it in order to get another party in.

Part II of the interview will focus on the August’s chapter about Obama and the illusion of change.
Copyright © 2013 Global Research

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What I learned in Cuba

May 19, 2013

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By Kathy Castor, special to the Tampa Bay Times
Saturday, May 18, 2013

The flight from Florida to Cuba is a little over an hour, yet the countries remain a world apart.
Cuba is changing, however, as I learned on my recent fact-finding visit. Cuba has embarked on meaningful economic reforms, which deserve encouragement by the United States, not continued isolation. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have a window of opportunity to engage and encourage reform in Cuba and should act now.
Cuba has instituted significant changes to its economy through decentralization and some private ownership of property and private business, such as restaurants (paladares), private lodging (casas particulares), construction and other self-created small businesses (cuentapropistas). Reforms also are also under way in Cuba’s agricultural sector.
I met with several Cubans who now work for themselves and are creating employment opportunities for other Cubans, which increases autonomy and self-determination. Cuba’s decision to eliminate most travel restrictions is modestly increasing mobility, earning power and the ability to provide financial support for their families.
These developments remind me of the historic economic changes since the 1980s in the former Soviet bloc countries, and in China and Vietnam over the past 25 years. Indeed, I traveled to the former East Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution. The United States was directly engaged with those nations during their transition, and Americans were free to travel and interact with their people. American legal and economic experts and businesses directly aided the transition to greater freedom and personal economic opportunity.
If America officially acknowledged changes under way in Cuba, it would strengthen the hands of Cubans who want these reforms to succeed, and we could encourage Cuba to go further and faster.
America also should capitalize on economic changes occurring outside Cuba. One of Cuba’s primary benefactors, Hugo Chavez, is gone and it is unlikely that Venezuela will have the capacity to continue to provide billions of dollars in economic aid and petroleum products to Cuba. In fact, in the Tampa Bay area, I know of recent immigrants who cite the fear of losing Venezuelan support and returning to another “special period” as their reason for leaving the island.
During my visit, Cuban officials made it clear to me they would like the embargo lifted and that they seek an improved relationship. America’s allies in the Western Hemisphere have encouraged the United States to do so. Cuba and its citizens are more than a decade behind with respect to the Internet and broadband. Expansion of this advanced technology will be slow, but the improvement to human rights and efficiencies to Cuban society could be enormous.
Cuba and other foreign interests continue to prospect for oil in its territorial waters (so close to sensitive environmental resources in the Florida Straits). Despite multilateral discussions among the United States and Caribbean nations, the United States should have a more direct relationship. Cuba and Brazil are making a large investment in the modernization of Cuba’s Port of Mariel in advance of the widening of the Panama Canal. U.S. ports, businesses and environmental concerns would benefit, or at least gain greater influence and understanding, with more direct engagement.
Small businesses, the tourism industry, Tampa International Airport and the Port of Tampa are poised to take advantage of broadening travel and trade to the island nation. Tampa Bay has the opportunity to become a “Gateway to Cuba.” We can market Tampa to families, educational groups and cultural organizations traveling to Cuba as a jumping-off point to the island nation. They can learn about Cuba, participate in language and other immersion courses, eat in our restaurants and stay in our hotels. Doing so will create jobs here in travel and tourism, and our small businesses will benefit.

These circumstances provide an opportunity for the United States to engage in a dialogue with Cuba to lift trade restrictions while promoting greater human rights for the Cuban people.
Lifting travel restrictions would not only be consistent with Americans’ constitutional right to travel, it would facilitate greater exchange between the two countries and remove costly regulatory burdens. Americans are free to travel anywhere else in the world, including countries on the State Department’s State Sponsor of Terrorism list. No rationale exists to singularly prohibit travel to Cuba

( Rep. Kathy Castor’s commentary is eloquent, timely and courageous.
Considering Washington’s announcement that Cuba is again going to be kept on the “terrorist list”, the hysterical media campaign around Assata Shakur, who has lived as under political asylum in Cuba for several DECADES, and on and on, Rep. Castor’s comments are thoughtful and should be circulated as widely as they possibly can.
Walter Lippmann )

Getting to know René González, ‘an experience that changed my life’

May 19, 2013

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( René and his wife Olga )

Fellow prisoner Roddy Rodríguez recounts friendship with 1 of ‘Cuban 5’ revolutionaries framed up by US gov’t

(feature article, THE MILITANT – Vol. 77/No. 20 – May 27, 2013)

René González, one of five Cuban revolutionaries arrested by the U.S. government in 1998 on trumped-up charges, returned home to Cuba at the beginning of May, having served 14 and a half years in the custody of the U.S. “justice” system. This victory has given a powerful boost to the fight to free Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González, the four who remain in prison (see box on this page).

Rodolfo “Roddy” Rodríguez served time alongside René González in the Federal Correctional Institute in Marianna, Fla. In the following interview he describes the friendship they shared, giving us a glimpse of the respect and support González — and his four comrades-in-arms — have won among fellow inmates, and even some of the prison guards, through their unwavering integrity and dignity.

Rodríguez was speaking on Edmundo García’s popular call-in radio program La tarde se mueve (Afternoon on the Move), broadcast June 13, 2012, on Radio Progreso, a Spanish-language station in Miami.

As he mentions here, Rodríguez was among the 128,000 Cubans who came to the United States in April 1980 as part of what was popularly known as the Mariel boatlift. At that time, the U.S. government was stepping up aggressive actions throughout the Caribbean and Central America in response to the 1979 revolutionary victories in Nicaragua and Grenada and sharpening class battles in El Salvador, Guatemala and elsewhere in the region. Part of the political propaganda of the administration of U.S. President James Carter was the claim that Havana prevented Cubans from leaving the island. The revolutionary government called Washington’s bluff, opening the port of Mariel to private boats coming from the United States to pick up anyone who wanted to emigrate. More than 100,000 did before the U.S. government demanded that the Cuban government halt the operation.

In celebration of the release of René González, and in tribute to each and every one of the Five, below are major excerpts from the hourlong interview. The translation from Spanish is by the Militant.
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EDMUNDO GARCÍA: Today’s program is one we’ve been looking forward to all week. My guest is Rodolfo Rodríguez. He’s 55 years old and everyone calls him Roddy.

Roddy, you came to the U.S. from Mariel.

RODOLFO RODRÍGUEZ: That’s right. My odyssey in the United States began in 1980.

GARCÍA: Roddy was in the same prison with the Cuban anti-terrorist fighter and Hero of the Republic of Cuba, René González. For several years, between 2004 and René’s release in 2011, Roddy got to know René, and this left an imprint on his life.

How did you meet René?

RODRÍGUEZ: I arrived at the Marianna prison in 2002. In 2004 a hurricane destroyed the place and the National Guard took us out. After two months, I was part of the first group that went back. The next day a group was brought in from another prison, and René González was among them.

I was introduced to him by a fellow Cuban who said, “Hey, man, let me introduce you to the spy.” Everyone there called them “spies” — that’s the way it was and they accepted that. It’s what they were accused of, even though they were never involved in espionage.

That’s how I met René, and I can truly tell you it has been one of the friendships that changed my life the most.

I was raised in a home where there was a lot of hostility toward the government of our country. Today I thank God that my thinking is completely different.

I believe in God, and in prison I was seen as the one who brought in religion. I have to tell you that so you’ll understand what follows.

When I first met René, right off the bat I told him that I believe in God. I expected René to take me on, to start arguing with me.

What happened? He replied, “That’s great. I don’t. But I believe that a true Christian will want the best for humanity, and if my friendship with you helps you become a better Christian, I’ll feel very happy.” That had a tremendous impact on me.

So that’s how our friendship began. We lived two cells apart. We weren’t cellmates because we each had too many things — especially books — to fit in the same cell. We would see each other whenever the doors were opened, except when René went running. It wasn’t easy to keep up with him — he ran a lot.

It was my relationship with René that began changing the way I thought. I began to see things for myself, and eventually I was convinced.

In prison I met people from different countries — out of respect, I don’t want to mention which ones — and it pained me to notice that some couldn’t read or write. Then I thought about the Cuban people — even those who are here — and I told myself: “Wow, there’s not a single one who doesn’t know how to read! I come from a country that’s been blessed.”

Now I understand all the positive sides of Cuba that I didn’t see before. And all that I began to understand thanks to René.

René is a man of principles, like all of the Five. He would tell me, “Principles have no price, because whoever has them won’t sell them, and whoever sells himself doesn’t have principles.” I believe their principles have helped make them popular and respected in the prisons they’ve been in.

I’ll never forget the time René got me a book of Bible stories from the library. He asked me, “Would you like to read this book together?” It was in English — I can read English but he reads it well — and he began to translate it into Spanish. We read the whole book — the story of Abraham, everything.

Things like that made me realize René was not some fanatic, that he was true to his principles. He lives up to what he says. You can tell him what you think, without upsetting him. He respects your ideas. “You have the right to say what you think,” he’d always say. “Just as I have the right to think as I do.”

GARCÍA: Did other prisoners have the same respect for him?

RODRÍGUEZ: I think everyone did. I’ll never forget this young Black guy, his cellmate, who composed a rap song with a political theme about the U.S. and sang it for everyone in the yard where we held events on special occasions like July 4 or Christmas Eve. I can’t tell you exactly what his political ideas were, but I think perhaps he was inspired by his relationship with René, by coming to understand the cause of the Five. Many people didn’t know what was happening around the Five and when they learned they were surprised. We even had a T-shirt made with the symbol of the Five and the star from the Cuban flag.

GARCÍA: What did you do on a typical day in those years?

RODRÍGUEZ: René ran a lot, as I said. And when he wasn’t running he was reading. You could see the solidarity he got from around the world by the mail he received. It was a moment we all looked forward to every day — seeing tons of letters come in, and all to one address, René’s: from Australia, Russia, China, from all over. Some inmates would say to him, “Listen, save me the stamps.” In fact, I have a lot of them myself.

He would get a lot of letters from Cuba — from people in the churches, even from prison inmates. At a prison in Granma province, some inmates organized a group to support the cause of the Five. It even included two prison officials, a captain and a lieutenant.

GARCÍA: Were some of the Cubans in Marianna hostile to René?

RODRÍGUEZ: You might say they weren’t so much hostile to René as they were to themselves, because they said things in his presence that could hurt, or shock. For example, someone, I don’t remember who, said one day, “My mother went to Havana for cataract surgery and she had to bring her own towel and sheets.”

Well, like Peter in the Bible, who marched forward sword in hand, I always spoke first. “Really,” I said. “And how much did she have to pay for the operation?”

“She had to bring her own sheets. It would have been an outrage if they had charged her,” he replied.

“You’re right,” I said. “When we took my father to the Beraja Medical Institute in Miami for cataract surgery, we didn’t have to take towels or sheets. But they charged him $1,200 for each eye. I don’t know how many boxes of sheets you could buy with that. Would you rather bring sheets or pay $2,400?”

Then they would tell me all kinds of nonsense.

GARCÍA: What would René do in those discussions?

RODRÍGUEZ: He’d laugh. But then he would make a comment I like a lot — and I’ve used it myself in conversations since then. “Look,” he said, “the problem is you base your discussions on things you’ve heard, not on what you’ve seen. Look at reality, look at the entire process, follow it through to the end.

“Just think of this: How does Cuba compare with other countries? Everyone wants to compare Cuba with the North,” he would say.

And it’s true, you can’t make such a comparison. I was in an immigration office and I saw Canadians, Australians, Chinese there — they all wanted to come to the U.S., because that’s where all the money is that was taken from the whole world. I’ve never seen a rafter head south, toward Guatemala. They all want to come here. Their goal isn’t to leave Cuba. It’s to come here.

GARCÍA: Tell us a little about what you and René did in your idle time.

RODRÍGUEZ: There was no idle time. It bothered René when someone would say, “I’m killing time.” He was never killing time. He would sit in a chair with his feet on the bed — I don’t know how he could read like that — and he devoured books. I thought I was a reader. But when I saw the way he read … and I’m talking about tough books, too.

GARCÍA: Did you get to know René’s family?

RODRÍGUEZ: Yes, it was a blessing to meet his family. I met Irma, René’s mother. That woman’s principles are incredible. She inspires those who meet her.

I’ve met all of the family except [René’s wife] Olguita, although she and I corresponded a lot by email when I was in prison. I still communicate with them, although I’m restricted.

GARCÍA: Let me explain to our listeners: Roddy and René, as former prisoners, aren’t allowed to communicate with each other under the conditions of supervised release they both face. But there’s no problem with Roddy being here to talk with me and our audience.

When the family visited, did you see their love for René?

RODRÍGUEZ: Yes, and it was incredible seeing him with his daughters, Irmita and Ivette. But you’ve touched on something that was a key part of what I call my mental metamorphosis. It wasn’t just because of the family. It was also seeing how all of Cuba supported René’s cause, the cause of the Five. That had a deep impact on me.

GARCÍA: How did the guards treat René?

RODRÍGUEZ: I think everyone respected him. Except for one officer we called the “pain in the butt,” but he was like that with pretty much everyone.

I’ll tell you a story. I can tell it now because the person involved is no longer there. Among the prison officers there was a lieutenant, a Black man, who came to our table in the lunchroom. In front of everyone, the guard shook René’s hand and said, “We support your cause.” I think in private life he was a Muslim. But in uniform, in front of everyone, he came and shook René’s hand.

GARCÍA: What did René tell you he wanted to do when he returned to Cuba?

RODRÍGUEZ: Well, one thing we agreed is that he and I are going to climb Mount Turquino [Cuba’s highest peak]. Together with Olguita and Sandra, my wife. Sandra hasn’t been to Cuba — she left when she was five and hasn’t been back. But we’re making plans, and she has her Cuban passport.

GARCÍA: You haven’t returned to Cuba either, Roddy.

RODRÍGUEZ: Unfortunately not. But eventually I will, and when I get there I won’t leave again.

GARCÍA: Did René ever seem sad or depressed?

RODRÍGUEZ: No, never. Angry, yes — on rare occasions, because he doesn’t easily get mad. He said he’d never give those people the privilege of seeing him get upset or whine.

From what I’ve seen of their letters, I’m sure each of the Five shares that principle. There is a total fraternity among them. There is a saying that “doing is the best way of saying,” and the Five truly live according to what they advocate.

GARCÍA: Were other non-Cubans interested in the issue René was involved in?

RODRÍGUEZ: Some. Many people would sit down with him and he’d talk with them.

Many inmates often came to René for help. He was always ready to translate something to English, help fill out legal forms, or get something from the library.

GARCÍA: At a certain point, before René was released on parole, you were transferred to another prison.

RODRÍGUEZ: That’s right. Saying good-bye was a big moment. I have many brothers in the church — today I’m an Evangelical teacher, and soon I’ll be ordained as a minister — and I love them very much, and there are many people I’ve learned from. But for me one of the greatest experiences in my life was getting to know René. I’ve said this to my family, to my wife, to my parents, who, incidentally, no longer think as they once did. They began to understand reality, because the truth is too big to hide.

GARCÍA: René is listening to this program. Do you have a message you want him to hear?

RODRÍGUEZ: I just want him to know that I’m still the same person. He’s in my prayers. And I thank him for having been my friend.

( W.L.: Spanish-speakers who may wish to read the complete original transcript of this interview can find it:
http://latardesemueve.com/archives/682, It doesn’t tell us if they archive the sound recordings.)


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